There are many nice cartoons/illustrations in Eckhart Tolle’s book Guardians of Being: Spiritual Teachings from Our Dogs and Cats, and this “Shtop Thinking” cartoon is one of my current favorites. (The book is a collaborative effort between Mr. Tolle and Patrick McDonnell, artist/illustrator/cartoonist who may be most well known for his “Mutts” cartoons.)
Sometimes during meditation strange things happen. As just one example, this morning I was enjoying a deep meditation, just focusing on the breath ... focusing on the breath ... and suddenly I was standing on a street corner. I looked around briefly, then thought, “What the heck just happened,” and with that thought I returned to my meditation.
For many years I struggled with how to combine two of my main interests, Zen and work. I had read that the Zen mind is the mind before thinking, so it seemed like Zen and work must be totally unrelated. But over time I came to understand phrases like, “When working, just work.”
This article contains a collection of quotes that have been helpful to me in understanding the relationship between Zen and work. Please note that I don’t wrap each quote in double quotes, and I also try to attribute each quote to the correct author/speaker. If you’re interested in how to combine Zen and work, I hope you’ll find them helpful.
“Only open your mouth if what you are going to say is more beautiful than silence.”
~ Zen quote
When I first started learning Zen I didn’t understand the quote shown in this image, and I truly was a carpet to walk on. Then I woke up and thought, “You need to run your business. You need to find the middle way between accepting ‘just this’ and what you need to do to be successful at work.”
It would have been helpful if I had seen this quote then, but the book, Making Zen Your Own, wasn’t available then.
When we enter the empty meditation hall we experience a tangible awareness of peace. The uncluttered space, accentuated by the orderliness of the simple cushions, seems quietly alive, a reflection of inherent beauty. We find a feeling of safety and sanctuary.
However, in Zen practice, true sanctuary is not isolated from everyday life. True sanctuary includes everything, shutting out nothing, because it has no doors and no walls. Finding true sanctuary means expressing who we really are.
Tozan and his disciple Sozan were the founders of the Soto Zen school in China. When it came time for Sozan to leave his teacher, he want to say goodbye.
Tozan asked him, “Where are you going?”
“To an unchanging place,” Sozan answered.
“Is there really any going to that place?”
“The going itself is unchanged.”
In this story Sozan is saying that the activity is the place of unchanging. He is pointing to continuous effort, uninterrupted practice, as the “place” of sanctuary.
Zachary: I ran into one of my brother’s work buddies, he introduced me to Tai Chi. It saved me.
Longmire: How so?
Zachary: I like to put it like this ... I went to church a lot as a kid, and we were always taught to love our enemies. Tai Chi taught me something new — to love the enemy inside me, as well. So I don’t look at peace as the absence of conflict any more. I see it as the acceptance of conflict.
(From the tv series Longmire)
From a translation of the Tao Te Ching:
The master, by residing in the Tao (the Way),
sets an example for all beings.
Because he doesn’t display himself,
people can see his light.
Because he has nothing to prove,
people can trust his words.
Because he doesn’t know who he is,
people recognize themselves in him.
(I recommend that third stanza in particular for people who are interested in consulting.)
From this vox.com article: “When the 12 Thai boys who were trapped in a cave and were rescued one by one were first discovered by British divers last Monday, they were reportedly meditating ... Turns out that their coach, Ekapol Chanthawong, trained in meditation as a Buddhist monk for a decade before becoming a soccer coach.”
If you’re interested in meditating but can’t quite seem to do it without getting distracted, I recommend making a game of it. One game I use is, “How long can I take to count to five full breaths?”
The game itself is simple: Just before you begin to meditate, start a stopwatch on your phone. Then breathe in, and as you do so, internally say “one.” Then breathe out and internally (or externally) say “two.” Try to take these breaths as slowly as you can, with all of your focus on the current breath and current number. Keep doing this until you breathe out and say “ten,” and when that breath is finished, stop the stopwatch and see how long it took. The game is to make this time as long as possible.